While going through sample multimedia journalism works recommended at various sites, from time to time I looked at a particular project and wondered “is this multimedia journalism?” A case in point is the “History of Las Vegas” presented by the Las Vegas Sun and recommended by Poynter Online as “Multimedia Projects You May Have Missed in 2008,” amid some other “multimedia journalism” works.
Granted, “History of Las Vegas” is an excellent multimedia project on the history of Las Vegas incorporating interative map, timeline, videos, etc. However, this is a very good multimedia DATA project, not a JOURNALISTIC project; as a matter of fact, the News tab at the top of this site brings visitors to a seperate page containing a collection of articles published by the newspaper, without much of savvy multimedia elements. This is a very interesting presentation of the historic data of Las Vegas, it’s just not a multimedia journalism project.
Then, what, in my view, can be considered as “multimedia journalism?” As an instance, Washington Post had an article on the maintence and repair problems in the public schools in Washington, D.C. due to budge cut. Other than the articles and the interactive maps showing schools in D.C., what I like about this multimedia project is the audio interview clips of eight teachers, each clip also comes with a photo slideshow of that teacher.
This type of confusion pops up from time to time as I see people use “multimedia journalism” or “online journalism” to interchangeably refer to two different types of project: multimedia presentation of data and multimedia presentation of journalism. In a multimedia journalism project, the data should play a supplemental role to support or enhance the journalistic story; when the data itself takes on a central role, then it may not be called “journalism,” at least not so in the truest sense of “journalism.”
And this brings us, college educators, back to a basic question: do we want our students to be more of a journalist, or more of a multimedia specialist? To create projects like “History of Las Vegas,” our students need to be more of a multimedia specialist; to create projects like the D.C. school stories, our students need to be more of a journalist.
“What is multimedia journalism” is not merely an academic question, the answer to this question will to a great extent shape the multimedia journalism programs that are being started at many universities.